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9 essential tools for getting tasks out of your inbox

by Alex in | | | |

If you want to try out my system for moving Google Docs notifications or other “task” e-mails out of your inbox and into a better context — perhaps your task management system — you may want to start by downloading or signing up for some or all of the tools I’ve used for this purpose. Here they are:

  1. Dropbox is a cloud-based file storage system that I rely on to keep my files synced across multiple computers, and to share folders with my colleagues and collaborators.
  2. Syncplicity is a cloud-based file storage system, not unlike Dropbox, but with a bonus feature: it lets you sync Google Docs to your computer! I won’t go into the merits of Syncplicity vs. Dropbox, but suffice it to say that I’m way too embedded with Dropbox to even consider switching, and suspect that even if I were starting from scratch, I might well choose Dropbox over Syncplicity. Happily, I can have both, because Syncplicity’s free, 2 GB plan is more than enough to store all my Google Docs. Thanks to Right Now in Tech for a terrific guide to using Syncplicity with Dropbox in order to sync Google Docs to your desktop.
  3. Growl is a system utility that gives you little pop-up alerts about various things that are happening on your computer. Some people love it, and some people hate it. I like using it selectively.
  4. Fluid is a single-site web browser for the Mac, similar to Prism (which works for Windows & Linux machines, too.)  You can use Fluid or Prism to give pseudo-app status to any web site you use frequently; it’s especially handy for web apps, which you may want to see in your dock or otherwise keep accessible so they don’t get lost in a sea of browser tabs.
  5. Things is my preferred task management program, but you can use your favorite: the basic approach I outline is feasible for many different widely-used task management tools.
  6. Applescript lets you automate a sequence of actions on your Mac. It’s not impossible for amateurs to hack together their own Applescripts (I did that myself, once!) but most of the time I just find something online that does the job, which is what I’ll do here.
  7. Gmail filters are the difference between happiness and despair. Learn more about how to use them here.
  8. Mail.app is my local e-mail client. You may be happier with something else but even if you’re mostly a web-based e-mailer there will be aspects of my filtering magic that are easier to implement with a desktop e-mail client.
  9. Mailplane is my new BFF. We started dating while I was writing my 7 Days to Inbox Zero series, and now we’re going steady and soon we’re going to register (it only costs $27, which is way less than you’ll pay for anything registered at Tiffany). It’s basically a Fluid or Prism-like thing that has been fine-tuned specifically for Gmail…and that turns out to be a very beautiful and handy thing when you’re messing around in your filters.

For more on the setup you need to create a filter-friendly e-mail triage system, read my post on the 5 essential ingredients.

First posted on January 7,2011

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